Making The Most Of Your Last Month Abroad

For many USAC students, their time abroad is about to come to an end. As the Fall 2021 semester winds down, we know you’re eager to make the most of the time you have left in your host country, and it can be overwhelming to check everything off your study abroad to do list. That’s why we’ve compiled some of our top tips to end your semester on a high note before returning home.

Students take a selfie in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo taken before COVID-19.

Be A Tourist In Your Host City

Whether you made a conscious effort to spend time in your host city or not, chances are that once you return home, you’ll wish you had spent even more time exploring your host city. We totally get it, it’s tempting to travel on the weekends and visit all of the famous cities, landmarks, and events that you’ve been dreaming about. So dedicate your last few weeks abroad to the city and community you’ve immersed in. Put on your best sightseeing gear and play tourist for a day or two and do it all. Visit the landmarks, museums, and cultural centers that your city is known for. Eat your favorite local dish and indulge in that traditional dessert. Visit your favorite cafe again and again. Trust us, the opportunity to travel will come around again, but the chance to really settle into a city off the beaten path is rare. Soak it all in.

USAC Torino students smile during a walking tour of their host city. Photo taken following local COVID-19 guidelines.

Prioritize Your Bucket List

The unfortunate truth of study abroad — or any form of travel, for that matter — is that you won’t get to do or see absolutely everything. No matter how packed your semester is, you’ll always leave wishing you had more time. But you know what? That’s okay! The beauty of an unfulfilled study abroad is that you’ll be inspired to continue your international education in one way or another, and we hope you never tire of traveling and exploring new cultures! So before you fill every waking moment with an activity or trip, take a step back and prioritize what you have left to do. Pick a few final must-do activities or must-visit locations and allow yourself to really be present and enjoy those instead of wearing yourself out bouncing from checkbox to checkbox trying to cross it all off your bucket list. Save the rest for next time.

A USAC student smiles with locals from a village outside of Chiang Mai. Photo taken before COVID-19.

Build In Some Time For Reflection

While you’re busy cramming in every last activity, street food snack, landmark tour, and conversation with locals, make sure to set aside some quiet time for yourself to reflect on your experience. Whether you journal, vlog, sort through photos, or anything else, it’s important to look back on the person you were when you landed in your host country and consider how you’ve grown — personally, academically, and professionally — since then. During your reflection, allow yourself a chance to sit back and just be grateful for the experience. Travel and reverse culture shock can make returning home a blur, so force yourself to stop and smell the roses one last time.

USAC Santiago students smile during a group outing. Photo taken before COVID-19.

Start Prepping For Departure Early

We know, departure is the last thing you want to think about right now. We get it! However, you do not want to leave any end-of-semester tasks until your final nights abroad. Jump on any final assignments early, begin packing slowly over the course of the next few weeks, and shop for souvenirs as you visit your favorite spots one last time. Your last week or so should be spent enjoying your time with your USAC cohort and local friends, not stressing about grades or how you’re going to fit everything into your suitcase. Your last few weeks will fly by and departure day will be here whether you’re ready or not. Make a schedule to tackle these things little by little to avoid worrying about it the nights leading up to your flight home.

Visit the USAC website for re-entry resources and information on reverse culture shock.